Michael Cacnio collaborates with master artists and provides a new context to their respective works.
By Ren Aguila
In one of the pieces on display when Art+ Magazine interviewed him, Michael Cacnio depicts a sculptor working on a solid glass sculpture that would be familiar to local art enthusiasts. It is apparent how the artist works on the piece with care, ensuring that he gets every detail right. Cacnio’s sense of being observant is also apparent here: he shows these tools as ready to be used to complete the sculpture. Of course, what is surprising about this, if one is not familiar with what Cacnio has been doing, is that the glass sculpture in the piece is by Ramon Orlina. It is part of Cacnio’s series of collaborations with visual artists, giving his take on familiar styles and forms.
This is the story of someone who is quite happy to be making his art. He comes off as someone at ease with himself and with what he has been doing. His enthusiasm and zest for life are remarkable for someone who has practiced his craft for a very long time.
Cacnio began to find his voice through several ways. The first, he says, was by choosing the material. He decided to use brass, a material that achieves a classic look by the way it weathers, as he describes it. It was then a matter of finding his style and how the works would show his character. Then it was a question of choosing his subject. He chose to explore the era in which he grew up, which he felt was fading away. He likens the process of making art in this case to that of a writer who takes a moment in time and captures it for posterity.
But it is not just a question of working with brass alone, which Cacnio says is much easier to work with than casting resin or plaster of Paris, especially when making changes to the work. Even at an early stage, he started collaborating not just with artists, but with materials. He experimented with glass, wood, stainless steel, and light bulbs, blending them with his brass work to produce what he describes as “a perfect piece.” These experiments continue, and it prevents him from being stuck in a rut.
After establishing himself as a sculptor for many years now, Cacnio took on an even more significant challenge. He says that collaborations between painters were commonplace, so he wondered if he could integrate other artists’ work with his sculptures. It presents a new challenge every time: the artwork is already there, and it is a matter of him adjusting to it.
The first collab Cacnio made was autobiographical. He worked with a piece by his father, established painter Angel Cacnio, and he reminisced about how he would visit his father’s office to find him painting and how that would inspire him as a young boy. Subsequent collaborations followed with artists such as Juvenal Sanso, Federico Aguilar Alcuaz, Ramon Orlina, Abdulmari Imao, Norma Belleza, and Orley Ypon. For instance, a work features one of Imao’s sculptures and two figures by Cacnio interacting with it, as if it were a playground set piece. It is playful, alive, and exudes joie de vivre, which is unexpected and uplifting.
The process of choosing whom to collaborate with is painstaking. It is not just about selecting a piece and working with it, Cacnio says, but studying the artists, their body of work, their influences, and how their art shows their character, mood, or style. is research may be detailed and time-consuming, but it always pays off. Art viewers have received his collabs well. Their reaction is often one of surprise, seeing how the existing works of the masters blend with the new sculptures he creates, resulting in a dialogue of ideas and forms. He sees the collaborations as a way of paying homage to the artists he admires.
Throughout conceiving and executing his collab works, two things drive Michael Cacnio: his endless pursuit of improving his craft, and his faith in God. When asked what the future will bring in terms of this series, Cacnio readily admits that there are still several artists, both here and abroad, ripe for collaboration. Simultaneously, knowing how people would get tired of getting the same thing from him, he wants to continue exploring and diversifying the scope of his work, always keeping in mind the other thing that drives him.
Cacnio brings his Christian faith into his work “100 percent.” It was divine guidance that led to his becoming an artist. He believes God created mankind to live in happiness and gave them opportunities for growth. The impetus for Cacnio’s creative decisions as an artist is that he wants his works to be positive and happy, to give people a sense of beauty and joy. He chose this path because of his belief that God stands for life, hope, and perseverance. He observes with a wry eye how art collectors might sometimes valorize art that’s full of angst and depictions of death. On the other hand, Cacnio chooses to create art that is life-affirming. His happiness is infectious, and it shows in how he captures the artist working on an Orlina sculpture. It is less of a chore than a celebration of delight in one’s craft. After all, it is an invitation to embrace your calling and live life to the fullest.